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Raiders, Grizz clash in North semis
by Dan Eckles
Nov 14, 2013 | 1234 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Reed's Christian Cabanilla tries to run out of a teammate's tackle during a recent Raiders practice.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Reed's Christian Cabanilla tries to run out of a teammate's tackle during a recent Raiders practice.
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The Reed Raiders have back-to-back North Region football titles and three of the last four. The RHS gridders boast the winningest program in region over the past decade. After winning another High Desert League football crown and racking up a 9-1 record, not much seems to have changed.

Reed finds itself in the regional semifinals this week, meaning three other North schools would love nothing more than to break the Raiders' run of recent success. However, you can bet Reed players and coaches are just as set on not letting that happen.

The first team with a chance to knock Reed off its North Region pedestal is Galena, which travels to face Reed in a regional semifinal Friday on the RHS campus. Kickoff is salted for 7 p.m.

"We're excited to see Galena," 13th-year Reed coach Ernie Howren said in a phone interview Monday night. "They are just such a good football team, both offensively and defensively. I think having not played them yet this year just adds to a great atmosphere Friday night."

Galena, the Sierra League runner-up, raced out to a 6-0 record, winning all six games by 13 or more points. Then the Grizzlies dropped back-to-back games to Manogue, which did not even qualify for postseason play, and Carson. Galena rebounded to beat Damonte Ranch, 26-21, in its regular season finale and bounced Reno, 15-9, in a regional quarterfinal last weekend.

"As far as the season goes, I feel like it's been a long one," Galena coach Steve Struzyk said Wednesday morning. "We had a lot of non-league games. I feel like we've been doing this forever. It's really a week by week deal. Everyone loves to have their team playing great at the end but everyone makes mistakes and there's a lot of luck involved too. Hopefully, we get a few calls and bounces our way. But still, we're preparing the same way every week and working hard to play well every week."

Reed ripped off wins in its first seven games of the fall campaign before losing a shocker to Reno, 29-27, on Oct. 24. Reed responded by drilling rival Spanish Springs 63-28 in both schools regular-season finale and then the Raiders put up maybe their best showing of the season, a 55-7 romp over Douglas in the first-round of the playoffs last Friday.

Galena is averaging almost 33 points per game and it has a talented trio in its offensive huddle. Quarterback Brock Raggio, running back Ben Barnard and receiver Chaz Clark give the Grizz a foundation for a balanced and potent offense.

"Barnard is a tremendous running back and what's so great about watching him play is he understands the game and how he fits into the scheme they run ... Then you have Raggio at QB throwing to Chaz Clark. That's as good as any combination in the league. Those guys are just good football players.

"Defensively, you have to be balanced against them. Galena's a team that feels it could rely on the run if it had to or it could rely on the passing game. These guys are a great challenge to us as a defense."

Reed gave up 40 points to North Valleys, 29 points to Reno and 28 points to Spanish Springs in a stretch of three straight weeks. It would only be natural for Raiders coaches to start and wonder about their defensive performance. They hope they've righted the ship. The Raiders defense did not give up a score last week to Douglas as the Tigers' lone score came on a special teams play.

"To turn around in the first round and not five up a single point to the Douglas offense, that shows we're going in the right direction. Those few weeks were not who we are. It's not that we've gotten really better but we've just showed again who we are. It's fun to watch our defense. Their approach has been all business and it's been cool to watch."

Howren was quick to point out the prowess of the Galena offense, but his team's ability to move the ball is pretty impressive as well. Reed is averaging more than 48 points per game and has eclipsed the 60-point mark twice and the 50-point mark three other times this fall.

"I can't say enough good things about our offense right now," Howren said. "To put up 670 yards of offense last week, we're doing something right. To rush for 485 yards in a single game, that speaks volumes about what our offensive line is doing up front. We've got a rotation of seven guys up front  that contribute and they're doing an amazing job."

On a weekly basis, Howren reiterates that his team is far from perfect and that it's constantly working to improve, never resting on its successes. So after watching his defense not give up a point and watching his offense move the pigskin at will and score seemingly on command, what do the Raiders work on?

"Everything under the sun," he said. "Anything and everything you can possibly think of. We're still in a situation where we must get better at it all. There are things we can still improve on, but we have had great practices. The kids have come out with an attitude that they do have a lot to improve on every week. That's how we've been successful."

Struzyk was quick to point out that Reed is not much different than it has been in the recent past. He said there aren't many secrets when it comes to playing Reed and he stressed his team had better be ready to compete for 48 straight minutes.

"Reed is the same as all of the other years they've been good over the past few years," Struzyk said. "They're huge up front. They're fast. They're the top dog that you have to go up and fight and battle. They're just the same. They're good. You know what to expect."
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